Soccer star Shani Breiman ’18 played for Team USA in the 2015 Pan American Maccabi Games in Santiago, Chile this December, competing in the women’s open category with players ages 18-35.
Breiman helped lead Team USA to a gold medal. The event was hosted by Maccabi USA, an organization that promotes Jewish heritage and through athletic competition.
Breiman more than held her own, playing alongside more experienced teammates, many of whom are Division I and professional players. In total, she scored four goals throughout the tournament—including a game winner against Chile and two in the final matchup against Brazil.
Breiman is most proud of her first goal against Brazil, as it changed the momentum in favor of Team USA’s conclusive victory. “One of my best friends on the team, Ellie, crossed a high ball far post and I headed it into the top right hand corner,” Breiman says. “It was amazing and it was probably the most important goal I have ever scored.”
Breiman says her biggest challenge was adapting to unfamiliar coaches and teammates—both on and off the field.
“Before going to Chile I was really nervous about not knowing anyone. I knew some were in high school, some were out playing in college, and one was already out of college. But after spending every day with my team for ten days straight we quickly became a family,” says Breiman, adding that being able to adapt to various circumstance is “an important skill for all athletes to master.”
Prior to hitting the field, Team USA participated in an Olympic-style ceremony, with national anthems and players wearing the colors of their respective flags. When the Hatikvah was played, though, “everyone, regardless of the country they came from, belted the anthem,” Breiman says.
Breiman hopes to play in the next Maccabi Games, which will be held in Israel in the summer of 2017. “I can honestly say that some of these girls will be my friends for the rest of my life, and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to connect with them,” she says.